Title: Birth Days: Stories of Women Who Turned Difficult Beginnings into Glorious Lives
Author: Carol Massey
Print Length: 157 pages
Publisher: Pure Heart Publishing
Publication Date: November 2019
Reviewed By: Yecheilyah Ysrayl
Birth Days is just what its subtitle says, “the stories of women who turned difficult beginnings into glorious lives.” The author introduces us to several fictional women who endure heartbreaking struggles with birth and parenting. Dr. Francine Young gives her baby up for adoption, Lulu didn’t know she was pregnant until two months before giving birth, Margaret messed around with Jackson Jones (and he was not her husband), and Lulu’s grandson became the President of Howard University in 2027.
We are witnesses to the trials these women endured, the men they loved and the people who assisted them in their journeys. (Like Aunt Sis who acted as a Midwife and caregiver for Mary and Connie). Readers will be eager to see what happens next as each woman tackles her beast. We can consider the stories historical as many of them take place as far back as the thirty’s and forty’s and I enjoyed the pieces of history sprinkled throughout as it pertained to the differences of the lives of African Americans in the North as compared to the South. (Though, I wish the author had placed more emphasis on how racist the North was too. To her credit, there was mention of the racial subtleties of the North, but I still got the feeling that for the characters it represented the land of milk and honey.)
My favorite story is the first one, Two Sisters, with Connie and Mary, Aunt Sis and Aunt Ailene. I could see the mother’s grief at having such a difficult pregnancy and the fear that gripped the family at having lost a baby before, and their anxiousness over whether Mary would live. I felt the father’s heartache at building the baby coffin out of the fear she would die like the others. (And when the father renovated the house later in the story and came home with Clara it had a Color Purple feel to it). I was eager to see what would happen to the sisters in the long run. The author did a good job of keeping me wanting to read on. (I enjoyed Dr. Francine’s story too.)
I believe this book to be a five-star read. It’s not a long book and the stories of the women and their struggles with maternity fit well within today’s society where women, their efforts and lives are at the forefront. However, because of a few errors, I cannot rate this book the five stars I think some minor adjustments could help it become. Too much telling, no chapter headings and too many exclamation marks are among my concerns that impede the flow of the reading and, as a result, contribute to my final rating.
After retiring from a 30+ year career in health and educational administration, Carol Massey had time to reflect on the people, places and events that influenced and inspired her. She wanted to pay homage to some of the women who guided, nurtured and supported her journey from childhood through college, career and life as a single mother of an African American male child. Carol, a California native, now lives in suburban Atlanta with her rescue pup, Ms. Frances.
“What’s got you so happy?” said the dark-skinned, toothless woman. She was smoking a cigarette. But Lavenia was on that stuff and it had made her skin darken and cling to her bones. A lot of their neighbors was like this. They nodded, bowing low enough to be inches from the floor before jerking back again, brushing away bugs, only they could see as they unnecessarily cleaned, picking imaginary lint from their clothing, and laughing at jokes only they were in on—the real walking dead. Their skeletal bodies roamed the country roads early mornings, afternoons and late at night. Or they stood next to gas stations waiting for customers to come out, so they could collect change, their long skinny fingers curled into tight fists around the crack they sold their souls for.
Wanda cringed on the inside. Seeing her people like this made her physically sick. Lavenia was once pretty.
“It’s a good day. That’s all.”
Lavenia frowned and inhaled the cigarette like it was the last one she would ever smoke.
“Hmm. Yea. How Abby doing?”
Diversion. Lavenia never asked about Abby. Lavenia only cared about one thing. Getting high. Wanda frowned at the thought. She was so excited, she hadn’t noticed the signs.
“Oh, Abby is doing good, Miss Lavenia. I think she’s adjusting real nice. You seen her mama any?”
Lavenia let the cigarette breathe some, exhaling smoke into the air before sucking on it again.
“Naw. Ain’t seen her since that day.”
She was talking about the day she carried Abby into Cassaundra’s prison. Lavenia eyed the young lady in front of her. She had a shape like that once.
“You got some money? Let me borrow a couple dollars till my paycheck hit.”
“I’m sorry Miss L. I ain’t got nothing on me.”
“I can walk with you to the house. All I need is a lil change.”
“I can’t. I’m broke.”
Lavenia frowned. “You ain’t no damn broke.”
“Miss L. I am. For real. You know if I had it, you’d have it. I gotta get going. Tell Brandon I said hey.”
Lavenia walked off in a hurry. Brandon was her son. She’d probably left him in the house by himself again.
About. Wanda wants nothing more than to escape the oppressive upbringing of life with her abusive foster mother. Miss Cassaundra manipulates the system by bringing lost children into her home turned whorehouse and collecting the money. Wanda knows what it’s like to be abandoned and has no doubt Abby is Cassaundra’s next case. When an opportunity arises, that could save them both, Wanda must find a way to get the paperwork that will secure their freedom. But Cassaundra’s got eyes everywhere and no one can be trusted when even salt looks like sugar.
We are six days away from the eBook release of my new novella, Even Salt Looks Like Sugar so this is your once in a blue moon shameless self-promotion post. Go get it!!
Okay. Now that I have your attention. What is this about any way?
Wanda wants nothing more than to escape the oppressive upbringing of life with her abusive foster mother. Miss Cassaundra manipulates the system by bringing lost children into her home turned whorehouse and collecting the money. Wanda knows what it’s like to be abandoned and has no doubt Abby is Cassaundra’s next case. When an opportunity arises, that could save them both, Wanda must find a way to get the paperwork that will secure their freedom. But Cassaundra’s got eyes everywhere and no one can be trusted when even salt looks like sugar.
You should read this book if:
You are into Young Adult Fiction
You are passionate about African American experiences
You love women’s fiction
You love and care about children
You suspect something is wrong with America’s Foster Care system
You’ve been in the foster care system
You are a mother
You didn’t grow up with a mother
You are short on reading time (this is a short novel)
You are short on finances (this book is just 99cents)
PreOrder this short novel today in eBook at just 99cents on Amazon. CLICK HERE!!
Mark as “Want to Read” on Goodreads if you want to read it. CLICK HERE!!
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I have known Lynette for about two years now. Though it’s hard to pinpoint any exact moments in the blogosphere, I believe we met when she commented on my blog post, Why Memoirs are Special. From there we have gone on to follow each other’s blogs, email lists, social media, and she even bought one of my paperbacks.
Today, I am honored to help to promote her memoir, Even Rain is Just Water. Eck!
OK. I am calm. But, you all know that I would like to write a memoir one day. It is my honor to witness how it is done from those who’ve been where I am trying to go. Lynette’s book released in ebook on May 30, 2017. Today, she is releasing the paperback!
I love paperbacks!
AND I’ve already read the book. Yup. I beat you.
Before getting into the book, let’s learn more about Ms. Davis. I had a chance to “sit down” with her for a special edition interview. (Yup, beat you again. Ya’ll better hurry up.)
Lynette, what inspired you to write a memoir?
I was inspired to write my memoir to facilitate my healing. I know that “all things work for the good of those that love the Lord and are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). I was driven to continue writing when I realized I was not alone that my experience was more common than I ever could have imagined. I decided to develop my story and make it available to the public to raise awareness about emotional abuse.
Even Rain is Just Water is a powerful title. Can you give us some background on why you chose it and what it means?
I went through a dozen titles before God dropped rain is just water in my spirit on a clear, sunny Southern California day. Months later, the word “even” was added to the beginning. It means at the end of the day, the storms in our lives are just that–storms. And storms are temporary. I particularly liked rain is just water because it made me think of Psalm 1:3. The storms of our lives may come in like a flood. But, at the end of the day, it’s just water because, ultimately, God is in control of our lives. And after the storm has come and gone, we’ll still be here like trees planted along the riverbank.
Beautiful. Let’s get into the book. You have been through some stuff! What do you think some of the major differences are between Emotional and Physical abuse?
The major differences between emotional abuse and physical abuse are one is visible, and the other is not. Emotional abuse is an invisible abuse. There are no tell-tale scars, no broken bones, no black eyes, which is what makes this type of abuse so insidious. Emotional abuse, just like physical abuse diminishes the person’s sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth. If our scars were visible, there would be lots of scar tissue from scars that never fully healed before we got another scar.
How important is the role of mother in the life of daughters?
The role of mothers in the lives of daughters is of utmost importance. It’s the first relationship the daughters has. And it’s the one that provides a mirror, for the daughter, as to how she sees herself and the world around her. If you can’t trust your mother, who can you trust?
Man. I feel you. OK. Let’s switch it up a bit. I hear you work in education? Tell us about that.
I work in education as a substitute teacher. I work in one school district, however, with many schools, generally with elementary school children, and occasionally, with junior high and high students. Substitute teaching hasn’t changed much since you were a student. When a teacher is out, I take the teacher’s class for the day.
You was jamming in this book! Tell us about the kind of music you like.
I love R&B oldies from the seventies, eighties, and nineties, and some from the sixties such as Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, The Four Tops and The Temptations, especially when I’m cleaning the house. And I love contemporary gospel music. I also like jazz, although I haven’t bought any jazz CDs in a while.
What takes up most of your time?
Writing, my blog and Twitter, in that order.
Lol. In your own words, what is humility?
To me, humility is when you treat everyone the same, not some people different because they have more, or some people different because they can’t do anything for you, or some people different because no one is looking. Humility is not being stuck on yourself, and being able to understand how someone else may feel, having empathy for someone else, trying to imagine how they feel. Humility is knowing who you are, no matter how other people treat you. Humility is not being arrogant, walking around saying, “Look at me.” It’s being comfortable wearing a tee shirt, your favorite pair of jeans and a pair of flip flops because you know who you are, and don’t have to impress anyone.
I.Love.That.Definition. What is the most thought-provoking book you’ve ever read?
Anne Moody’s Coming of Age in Mississippi. Reading that book was like I was there, right along with Anne during the early days of the Civil Rights Movement. Being from Florida, I related to a lot of the things she wrote about in Coming of Age in Mississippi.
Oh my goodness, yess! I so love how you incorporated history into your life story. It was brilliant and made me wish I was there to experience many of those historical moments.
Lyn, who is your favorite historical figure?
I would have to say Martin Luther King Jr. (Although Muhammad Ali runs a close second.) The way he initiated the Civil Rights Movement, through the jail visits, hate, and imminent threat of death. And how so many people did lose their lives, like the four little girls at the church in Birmingham, Alabama, and the three civil rights workers. He was clearly operating in his purpose.
Indeed. He went hard toward the end of his life for sure. Lyn, faith plays a big part in your story, would you define yourself as being a religious person?
No, and yes. If you mean, do I go to church every Sunday and follow a set of traditional rules and regulations? No. But if you mean, do I believe in God—that is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? However yes, in that I’m more spiritual than religious.
In your own words, what is truth?
Truth, especially as it pertains to memoir, is all about perspective. In a memoir, when we tell our truths, it’s from our own perspective. No two people will have the same perspective about everything, not even siblings who were raised in the same household. Or husband and wives, for that matter. Truth usually goes along with facts, although not necessarily. Truth can be verified. Truth goes along with humility – being true to who you are, being authentic.
Why is writing important to you?
Writing is important to me for three reasons. First, it helps me to express my feelings. I’m an introvert. And as such, I’m naturally quiet and don’t express my feelings often. Have you heard the saying, “I write to know what I’m feeling?” Well, that’s me for sure.
Secondly, when I write, I’m able to express my truths, not just facts. Maya Angelou has a quote that expresses what I mean here. “There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth.” And thirdly, writing brings new revelations. I learn a lot about myself when I write.
Powerful. What skill would you like to master?
I would like to master graphic design—book cover design, in particular. That was the one aspect of my book that I wouldn’t—that is, couldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole.
Who is your favorite author?
My favorite author is Maya Angelou. And I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is my favorite memoir. Angelou is my favorite writer because not only does she write so descriptively, but she was a survivor of sexual child abuse and wrote about that experience in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. That memoir encouraged me to bring my story out of the dark and into the light. Another reason she’s one of my favorite authors is that she rose from a sexually abused child to an empowered woman that empowered others.
Speaking of memoirs, let’s get back to your book, how can victims of emotional abuse recognize the signs?
A person can recognize that they’re being emotionally abused by the way they feel. Here are a few subtle, but not so subtle, signs. Generally speaking, if a person makes you feel bad or makes you feel bad about yourself, on a regular basis, there’s a good chance, you are experiencing emotional abuse. Here are a few signs.
Emotional Abuse As to children–
Constant belittling, shaming and humiliating a child. Calling names and making negative comparisons to others. Telling a child he or she is “no good,” “worthless,” “bad,” or “a mistake.” Frequently yelling, threatening or bullying. Ignoring or rejecting a child as punishment–giving him or her the silent treatment. Limiting physical contact wit the child–no hugs, kisses, or other signs of affection. Exposing the child to violence or abuse of others, whether it be a mate, parent, sibling, or even a pet.
Emotional Abuse as to adults–
You are blamed for their problems, life, difficulties or unhappiness. Your behavior is constantly being corrected. You are put down in front of others. Your ideas and beliefs are regularly disregarded. Your hopes, dreams, and achievements are minimized or ignored altogether. You are constantly reminded of your flaws or shortcomings. Your boundaries are repeatedly crossed. You are accused of being too sensitive. You feel as though you need their permission before you can make decisions. Or you are not allowed to make any decisions. They invalidate or deny their emotionally abusive behavior when you try to talk to them. You are constantly being threatened with abandonment or neglect. They don’t seem to notice or care about your feelings.
Even Rain is Just Water is your first book. What was it like publishing for the first time?
I published my first book, Even Rain Is Just Water on May 30th. Writing the book was a journey. And getting it ready for publication was another journey, in and of itself, a learn-as-you-go experience, for me. Since it was my personal story, I decided to go the self-publishing route so that I could have control over every aspect of the book. It took me four years to write and develop my book. Two things I learned from the process. One, know what you want and how you want it. There are a lot of people out there willing to take your money and give you little to nothing in return. And two, plan for everything to take ten times as long as you initially thought it would.
And now…drum rolll…Even Rain Is Just Water by Lynette Davis
When Lyn finds herself homeless with three children in tow, she is forced to deal with the demons of her childhood—being unwanted, unloved and rejected. As she embarks on a search for a place to call home, her sole desire is to give her children what she lacked growing up—a sense of belonging and security. But she is not so sure she can make that happen. Will Lyn conquer the demons of her past and save her children from a generational fate?
Alternating between a lonely little girl’s coming-of-age in Florida during the Civil Rights Era and her adult years, Even Rain Is Just Water, traces a daughter’s quest for love and acceptance that transcends into adulthood—illuminating between how childhood emotional trauma shapes our adult identity.
There’s a lot to take from this book. What I absolutely loved was how Lynette gave us a glimpse of the time by the many historical events that happened and what she was doing when it happened. Everything from the death of MLK, the Rodney King beating and even the shooting and eventual death of Tupac. As Lynette lived her life, all these things were happening around her and we get to witness them in real time. She even did this with the music. It was brilliant. My full review is coming soon.
PRAISE for Even Rain Is Just Water
“Like rain in the desert of a parched soul, Lynette Davis’ poignant narrative of rejection, revelation and redemption, offers hope to those of us who have felt displaced, disconnected and alone.”
—BETTY TUCKER, author of Don’t Worry About the Mule Going Blind: Hazel’s Daughter
“A remarkable and heart-wrenching accounting of Davis’… undeniable courage and tolerance for suffering a lifetime of conflict, adversity, and emotional abuse…”
—D.G. KAYE, author of P.S. I Forgive You: A Broken Legacy
“A courageous voyage of one daughter’s remarkable journey in finding love, security and a place to call home against the demons of her past.”
—MARY A. PEREZ, author of Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit and Grace
Riverside, California, 1996
I imagine I look like mother goose walking with her baby ducklings as my three children trail me, one behind the other. The convenience store is a good ten blocks away. It seems more like twenty. Although it’s only a few minutes before seven o’clock, we’ve been up since day break. And the morning sun is beaming down on us like it’s the middle of August, instead of the first week of June. My children must understand the gravity of our situation because they’re as quiet as three mice as we trek to the convenience store. This is not our normal routine. Twenty-four hours ago, I couldn’t have imagined the events of last night, or that I would be walking down the main boulevard with my three children this morning. For the umpteenth time in the last fifteen minutes, I check my beeper. No pages.
Although I’m dressed for walking—a pair of just-above-the-knee gray biker shorts and a tee-shirt which is what I slept in last night, and a pair of tennis shoes with no socks, I feel weird like I’m half naked. I didn’t even bother to comb my hair this morning. Luckily, I’m sporting a short Halle Berry look, and the slightly disheveled look is in. I wonder what my children think about all the drama of last night as I marvel at their resilience. Despite everything our family has been through these last couple of months, they’ve never complained. My daughter, the youngest of the trio, is doing a good job keeping up with her brothers and me. I thank God, they’re such good troopers. We’re used to walking from time to time when my Jeep Cherokee acts up. Right now, it’s parked in front of mom’s house where it’s been all week. As we walk down the boulevard, I contemplate my situation. I’ve run out of options. What am I going to do?
We get to the convenience store. And I dial my grandmother’s telephone number from the phone booth, just outside. It’s almost seven thirty now, so it’s close to ten-thirty in Florida where she lives. I hear the phone ringing loudly through the phone lines and envision my grandmother, a pert seventy-nine-year-old who still drives herself wherever she wants to go, making her way to the phone. I let the phone ring awhile, to give Mother—that’s what her children and grandchildren call her, time to get to the phone—and me time to get my emotions in check. I’m still reeling from the events of last night. I need to tell someone what happened, to help me process it.
After six or seven rings, my grandmother picks up the telephone.
“Hello,” she says, in a sweet southern drawl.
“Hey, Mother. How you doing?”
“I’m doing fine. How you?” she asks, raising her voice higher when she says you.
“Mother, you’re not going to believe this.”
“What? What happened?”
You can keep reading. Click on the cover below (or the linked title) to support this author with your very own copy ofEven Rain Is Just Water, available now on Amazon.com.
Lynette Davis is an educator, author, editor, and survivor. Her memoir Even Rain Is Just Water draws attention to emotional child abuse and narcissism’s mounting prevalence, as she joins the growing number of people speaking out about the ill effects of such relationships. Her short narrative, “The Fatal Blow,” is featured in the anthology I am Subject: Women Awakening: Discovering Our Personal Truths Fall 2014, a collection of stories featuring women re-claiming their lives in life-altering moments. To other survivors, she recommends “The Invisible Scar,” a blog that supports adults who were emotionally abused as children. Davis received her B.A. in English from California Baptist University, studied Composition and Rhetoric at California State University, San Bernardino, and facilitates writing workshops in the Inland Empire, California.
“Who thinks her money talks louder than her womanhood” ….whew, this line!
To my momma,
Who has swallowed the amerikan dream
And chocked on it
To my momma,
Whose dreams have fought each other—
But cannot bear to see.
A volcano eating its own lava.
To my momma, who couldn’t turn
Hell into paradise
And blamed herself.
Who has always seen
Reflected in her mirror
An ugly duckling.
To my momma,
Who makes no demands of anyone
Cause she don’t think she can afford to.
Who thinks her money talks
Louder than her womanhood.
To my butchfem momma,
Who has always
Taken care of business
Who has schemed so much
She sometimes schemes against herself.
To my sweet, shy momma.
Who is uneasy with people
Cause she don’t know how
to be phony
And is afraid to be real
Who has longed for sculptured gardens
Whose potted plant
Dies slowly on the window sill
We have all been infected
That can be traced back
To the auction block